Joanna Kavenna

Tripping the Circuits

Martin John

By

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Where do we go from modernism, dear reader? You might not want to go anywhere, which is perfectly fair enough. Or you might argue that ‘modernism’ is an arbitrary category, a taxonomical illusion – also, fair enough. It’s undeniable that the literary revolutions of the early 20th century – games with form and stream of consciousness – have defined the avant-garde ever since. Yet when formal experimentation has become a stock signal of revolution, isn’t that precisely the sort of convention that a revolutionary should abhor? But where else do you go? Back to 19th-century realism? Or prose so manically chopped up that it makes Finnegans Wake look like Harry Potter? Are we stuck with perpetual reiterations of a vanished revolution – tribute modernism, in short? And aren’t these antiquarian subversions really just a form of cultural nostalgia, like being a Romantic poet in 1915? 

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